Ghost of the Schutztruppe

Media outlets in Namibia are reporting that last week, a cache of old firearms was found buried on the sports field at Tsumeb Gymnasium in the Otjikoto region. The guns were unearthed by telecom workers while digging trenches to lay cable. 

While the first thing you would think is that they are holdovers from the South African border wars that spanned much of the Cold War.

However, there are no SKSs, AKs, PPShs, or Mosins– you know, all the stuff you would expect to see in a SWAPO arms cache as supplied by the MPLA via Cuba and the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 80s.

It turns out, the pile included a bunch of old Mausers including 98s and Gewehr 88/05s, as well as at least one sword, some double-barrel shotguns and drilling style rifles, and an M1879 Reichsrevolver.

Turns out, it looks like they belonged to at least a company-sized unit of German Schutztruppe made up of local Askari and Ruga Ruga militia along with possibly some groups of Afrikaner volunteers dating to June-July 1915 back when Namibia was the colony of Deutsch-Südwestafrika.

These guys:


The force apparently stashed their arms before either surrendering or melting back to the veldt as the South African/Portuguese forces under Jan Smuts poured in and captured the colony.

Anecdotally, besides the old arms cache, there is still a very large German presence in Namibia even after a century. Some 30,000 pensioners live there from Germany proper and many descendants of old Askaris– and those brutalized by the Kaiser’s administrators in what is known today as the Herero and Namaqua genocide– still receive payouts while in many areas German is still spoken conversationally. About half the population that is Christian is Lutheran. 

Kinda like the whole Quebec thing.

This brings me to the footnote, attributed to circa 1964, that saw West German veteran affairs folks head to South African-administered Suidwes-Afrika to set up such payments. As former Askari often had no means to prove their service to Berlin, they were asked to drill with a broomstick and, as the story goes, those who had learned their manual of arms from strict Prussian NCOs never forgot it.

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